The soul that is to enter into the kingdom of God must be born of the Holy Ghost; and how this is effected.
1. THOSE who hear the word ought to give proof of the work of the word in their own souls. The word of God is no idle word, but has its own work upon the soul. For this reason it is sometimes called a “work,” with a view to the “work” being found in the hearers. May the Lord, then, grant the work of the truth in the hearers, in order that the word may be found fruitful in us. For as the shadow precedes the body, but the shadow manifests the body, while the truth is the body itself, so the word is like a shadow of the truth of Christ. But the word precedes the truth.
Fathers upon earth beget children of their own nature, from their own body and soul, and when they are begotten they educate them carefully with all diligence as their own children, until they become full-grown men and successors and heirs. For the aim and whole care of the fathers from the outset is to beget children and to have heirs, and if they had not begotten them, they would have had great sorrow and grief, and on the other hand they had corresponding joy when they had begotten them. Their kinsfolk and neighbours likewise rejoice.
2. In the same way our Lord Jesus Christ, taking thought for the salvation of man, employed from the outset all His providential care through the fathers and the patriarchs, through the law and the prophets, and in the end came Himself, and despising the shame of the cross, endured death; and all this toil and care of His was in order that He might beget children from Himself, from His own nature, being pleased that they should be begotten of the Spirit from above, of His own Godhead. And as those fathers, if they have no children, are grieved, so the Lord, who loved mankind as His own image, willed to beget them of the seed of His own Godhead; so, if any of them will not come to such a birth, to be born of the womb of the Spirit of the Godhead, Christ is submitted to great grief, after suffering for them and enduring so much to save them.
3. For the Lord wills all men to have the privilege of this birth. He died for all, and called all to life. But life is the birth from above of God. Without it the soul cannot live. The Lord says, Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God. And so, on the other hand, as many as believe the Lord, and come and receive the privilege of this birth, cause joy and great gladness in heaven to the parents that begat them; and all angels and holy powers rejoice over the soul that is born of the Spirit and has become spirit itself. For this body is a similitude of the soul, and the soul is the image of the Spirit; and as the body without the soul is dead, and unable to do anything at all, so without the heavenly soul, that is, without the Divine Spirit, the soul is dead from the kingdom, being unable to do any of the things of God without the Spirit.
4. As the portrait painter keeps an eye upon the king’s face and draws, and when the king’s face is towards him, attending to him at his painting, he draws the portrait easily and well, but when he turns his face away, he cannot draw, because the face is not gazing at the painter; in like manner Christ, the good artist, for those who believe Him and gaze continually at Him, straightway portrays after His own image a heavenly man. Out of His own Spirit, out of the substance of light itself, the ineffable light, He paints a heavenly image, and bestows upon it its good and gracious Spouse. If a man does not gaze constantly at Him, overlooking everything else, the Lord will not paint His image with His own light. We must therefore gaze upon Him, believing and loving Him, throwing away all else, and attending to Him, in order that He may paint His own heavenly image and send it into our souls, and thus, wearing Christ, we may receive eternal life, and even here may have full assurance and be at rest.
5. As the golden coin, if it does not receive the imprint of the king’s image, does not come upon the market, and is not stored in the king’s treasuries, but is discarded, so the soul, if it has not the image of the heavenly Spirit in light unspeakable, even Christ imprinted on it, is not fit for the treasuries above, and is discarded by the good merchants of the kingdom, the apostles. He who was invited, and did not wear the wedding garment, was cast out as an alien into the alien darkness, for not wearing the heavenly image. This is the mark and sign of the Lord imprinted upon souls, being the Spirit of light unspeakable. And as a dead man is useless, and of no use to those of the place, and so they carry him outside the city and bury him, so the soul which does not bear the heavenly image of the divine light, the life of the soul, is cast away and discarded; for a dead soul is of no use to that city of the saints, not bearing the luminous and Divine Spirit. For as in the world the soul is the life of the body, so in the eternal heavenly world the life of the soul is the Spirit of the Godhead. Without the life of the Spirit, this soul is dead to those above, and of no use.
6. He therefore that seeks to believe and come to the Lord, should entreat that he may receive here on earth the Divine Spirit; for that Spirit is the life of the soul, and for this cause the Lord came, that He might give life to the soul here on earth, even His Spirit. For He says, While ye have the light, believe in the light; the night cometh, when ye can no longer work. Therefore if any man has not sought, while here, and received life for his soul, even the divine light of the Spirit, when he departs out of the body, he is separated forthwith in the regions of darkness on the left hand, not entering into the kingdom of heaven, having his end in hell with the devil and his angels.
As gold or silver, when cast into the fire, becomes purer and better attested, and nothing can impair it, such as wood or hay—for it devours everything that comes near it, for they also become fire—so the soul going up and down in the fire of the Spirit and in the divine light will suffer no harm by any of the evil spirits. Even if anything shall draw nigh it, it is consumed by the heavenly fire of the Spirit: Or as a bird, when aloft on the wing, is in no anxiety, fearing not the bird-catchers nor evil beasts, for up so high it derides them, so the soul, receiving the wings of the Spirit, and flying into the heights of heaven, is above everything, and derides them all.
7. And Israel after the flesh, when Moses that day divided the sea, went through it below; but these, being God’s children, walk on the top over the sea of bitterness of the evil powers. Their body and their soul have become the house of God.
In that day when Adam fell, God came walking in the garden. He wept, as it were, beholding Adam, and said, “After what good things, what evils hast thou chosen! After what glory, what shame dost thou wear! How dark art thou now! how ill-looking! how corrupt! After what light, what darkness hath covered thee!” And when Adam fell and died from God, his Maker bewailed him; angels, and all the powers, the heavens, the earth, and all the creatures mourned over his death and fall, for they saw him that had been given them for their king become the servant of a hostile and evil power. Therefore he clothed himself with darkness in his own soul, a bitter and an evil darkness, for he was made a subject of the prince of darkness. This was he who was wounded by the robbers, and became half dead, as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
8. Lazarus also, whom the Lord raised, who stank so that no one could go near the sepulchre, was a symbol of Adam whose soul had come to stink and was filled with blackness and darkness. But thou, when thou hearest of Adam, and the wounded man, and Lazarus, let not thy mind go off as it were to the hills, but be thou within in thy soul, for thou thyself bearest the same wounds, the same stench, the same darkness. We all are his sons, of that dark race, and all partake of the same stench. The malady from which he suffered, we all, who are of Adam’s seed, suffer from the same. Such a malady has befallen us, as Esaias says, It is not a wound, nor a bruise, nor an inflamed sore; it is not possible to apply a mollifying ointment, nor oil, nor to make bandages. Thus were we wounded with an incurable wound; the Lord alone could heal it. For this reason He came in His own person; because none of the ancients, nor the law itself, nor the prophets, were able to heal this wound. He alone by His coming healed that sore of the soul, that incurable sore.
9. Let us then welcome our God and Lord, the true healer, who alone is able to come and cure our souls, after He has laboured so much for our sake. He is always knocking at the doors of our hearts, that we may open to Him, that He may enter in and rest in our souls, and we may wash and anoint His feet, and He may make His abode with us. The Lord in that passage reproached the man who did not wash His feet; and again He says elsewhere, Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man will open unto Me, and I shall come in unto him. To this end He endured to suffer many things, giving His own body unto death, and purchasing us out of bondage, in order that He might come to our soul and make His abode with it. For this cause the Lord says to those on the left hand in the day of judgment, that are sent by Him to hell with the devil, I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in; I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink. His food and His drink, His clothing and shelter and rest is in our souls. Therefore He is always knocking, desiring to enter into us. Let us then receive Him, and bring Him within into ourselves; because He is our food and our drink and our eternal life, and every soul that has not now received Him within and given Him rest, or rather found rest in Him, has no inheritance in the kingdom of heaven with the saints, and cannot enter into the heavenly city. But Thou, Lord Jesus Christ, bring us thereunto, glorifying Thy name, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, for ever. Amen.